You’d be hard-pressed to find a band who know their fans as intimately as The Maine. Ten years ago you would've found them spending their nights sitting behind their computers responding to fans online; on the road you’d find them walking lines, shaking hands and taking photos.
“When we were first getting started as a band, we couldn’t tour because Pat [Kirch] and Garrett [Nickelsen] were still in school, so we did a lot of work online, reaching out to people,” says the band’s rhythm guitarist, Kennedy Brock.
“Even during the first record, Can’t Stop Won’t Stop, we’d spend every night after recording on the computer answering messages until the inbox was clear. It really has been something that’s been with us and a part of how we’ve handled ourselves since the beginning.”
Six albums on, this ethos still remains. Though the crowds are bigger, the social media platforms have changed, and the followers spread further around the world – it’s the fans that are still at the forefront of everything The Maine do.
“For us, a lot of the decisions we make are based on what we would’ve wanted to see in a band that we enjoy – in an ideal world, what could we do?” Brock says. “A lot of people say, ‘Our fans mean everything to us,’ but our fans really provide everything we’re able to do. We wouldn’t have the opportunities we do if we didn’t connect with them.”
There’s a freedom and independence in everything The Maine do, from running their own label to booking their own tours, but this wasn’t always the case. With their second album issued by a major label – the first on a huge, seven-album deal – it was their third album, Pioneer, that saw a dramatic shift in the band’s sound. When the label wouldn’t release it, they took things into their own hands - and they’ve been playing by their own rules ever since.
“We got locked into this scenario where we wanted to try and expand our musical tastes and abilities as much as possible, and since then we’ve realised we can be more focused about that but still push the limits for ourselves,” Brock says. “Luckily over the years we’ve created a fanbase that expects us to not do what we’re expected to do.”
This freedom allows The Maine to be less conventional. For album number six, Lovely Little Lonely, the band once again went off the grid – this time turning a cliffside house in California into their personal recording studio.
“It was just an idea for a long time, ‘Maybe one day we’ll have enough gear to move around and do stuff.’ It was built off of how our first couple of records were made. We did what the status quo is – you go somewhere like Los Angeles and sit in traffic every morning on the way to the studio. It’s not the right environment for making music.
“When we started talking about being able to move gear to a remote location, we took the fantasy all the way there. It was incredible to be able to go where we were in California, to be able to be completely immersed in the album. A lot of the creativity happened from being in that environment; it goes hand in hand with how the record feels,” Brock says.
This confidence to break the mould is something that can only come with experience, and the last ten years have provided a whole lot of it. “There was a time for our band where we were in this struggle of being told we had to do things a certain way, and we realised that wasn’t for us,” Brock says.
“The more we’ve taken things on our own shoulders, the better we feel about the outcomes. It’s really been a process of becoming more and more independent. It’s made us way happier as a band, and I think that over the years we’ve fallen more in love with trying to make music. The more independence we’ve had, the better things have gotten.
The Maine will tour Australia from Tuesday January 30 – Sunday February 4. Lovely Little Lonely is out now via 8123.